Before Ash Wednesday rings in at midnight tonight, Mardis Gras culminates with one final celebration.
French for Fat Tuesday, Mardi Gras originally referred to the practice of one last night of eating richer, fatty foods before the ritual 40-day fasting of the Lenten season.
Our culture has turned Mardis Gras into week-long festivals. From parades and balls to masks and elaborate costumes, it's the cue for many to overindulge in all sorts of ways.
If you've ever seen New Orleans at 11:59 p.m. on Fat Tuesday, the streets sit ankle deep in discarded masks, broken beads, trampled doubloons, and used food and drink containers.
Fat Tuesday creates a lot of trash.
As we enter our churches tomorrow to begin the 40-days of Lent, we drag our trash in with us. The junk in our lives we've accumulated since last year's Lent.
Stinks up relationships.
Sullies our souls with the refuse of regrets, waste of missed opportunities, and rubbish of shattered dreams.
But God still invites us.
As we approach Him, eyes downcast, stumbling on the trash that chokes our freedom, He welcomes us.
He invites us to discard our masks at His feet. Those elaborate disguises that conceal feelings. Hide behaviors. Keep God and others at arms length.
God sees us drowning in our trash, picks us out of the pile, cleanses us, and sets us on a new path.
"Who can compare with God, our God, so majestically enthroned, surveying His magnificent heavens and earth? He picks up the poor from out of the dirt, rescues the wretched who've been thrown out with the trash, and seats them among the honored guests, a place of honor among the brightest and best." Psalm 113:5-8 (MSG)
He invites us to leave the used food and drink containers at the alter in exchange for His bread of life.
The communion of forgiveness.
To heal our hearts.
Redeem us from our sin.
As I prepare to walk into church tomorrow night for our Ash Wednesday service, I'm painfully aware of the rotting trash curling around my feet.
The rancid yards of it trailing behind me.
The putrid bags of it I carry in my heart.
Self-centeredness. Entitlement. Pride.
I'm so thankful for a loving God who still welcomes. Still invites. Still initiates that relationship with me that means everything.
He excels at redeeming us from our trash.
Let's talk: What trash are you trailing? What mask are you wearing? How will you allow God to redeem you from that this Lenten season?